Erin Sullivan, Megan Green Simonds and Corey Worth receive UMSL Hero Awards

by | Oct 2, 2023

The monthly awards recognize the exemplary efforts of staff and faculty members from across campus.

September’s honorees are (from left) Erin Sullivan, the assistant director of new student programs and campus visits; Megan Green Simonds, the director of new student programs and campus visits; and Corey Worth, custodian (not pictured). (Photos by Derik Holtmann)

University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor Kristin Sobolik and her cabinet continue to recognize the exemplary efforts of staff and faculty members from across campus by bestowing the UMSL Hero Award on up to three individuals each month.

This month’s honorees are Megan Green Simonds, director of new student programs and campus visits; Erin Sullivan, assistant director of new student programs and campus visits; and Corey Worth, custodian.

Megan Green Simonds

Megan Green Simonds, a St. Louis native who graduated from Incarnate Word Academy, found her love for student affairs programming as a student at Rockhurst University in Kansas City. Up until then, she didn’t realize she could make it a career.

Over the course of nearly two decades, she’s done just that.

Simonds has worked diligently to make new students at several universities feel welcomed and encouraged to jump into campus life. After graduating from Rockhurst, Simonds earned her master’s degree in higher education administration at the University of Arkansas. From there, she spent a few years at Arkansas and then Southern Methodist University running new student programming. In 2009, she returned to Missouri to take a job as assistant director of student life at her alma mater, Rockhurst.

Simonds has spent the last 10 years of her career as director of new student programs at UMSL. Her continuous dedication to the university’s student body earned a Hero Award nomination from Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment and Career Advancement Reggie Hill.

“To me, it’s always hard to stop and reflect on the good work that you do,” Simonds said. “It’s appreciated when you get nominated for this award, especially this year because we pretty much flipped everything upside down, and everything was brand new. It was a lot of hard work.

“Also, my job has always included others with a collaborative mindset. So, I don’t like getting recognized solely by myself. It was really a campus-wide effort, including enrollment, academic affairs, student affairs, alumni, marketing and auxiliaries giving us their full support.”

That switch for Simonds’ office involved moving multiple one-day orientation sessions for new students over the summer to four days in August, culminating in the inaugural New Student Convocation. During the ceremonial event, new students heard from speakers including faculty, staff, current students and one alum. New students also received a lapel pin and recited the Triton Creed to commemorate their induction into the UMSL community.

“With those different kinds of representations and additions, I think this fall opening represented a new spark and set the tone for our 60th anniversary celebrations and exhibited a renewed energy for UMSL,” Simonds said. “As everyone keeps saying, ‘Whatever you did this August, let’s do it again.’”

However, Simonds and her team don’t get a break with convocation behind them. She said October is one of the busiest months for prospective student tours, noting there are tours – ranging from groups of 25 to 170 – scheduled nearly every day next month.

But the sometimes-hectic schedule is worth it to see the UMSL campus flourish.

“We continue to thank all of the rest of the campus, really, because without this full collaborative effort, none of this can continue to evolve and for UMSL to continue to thrive,” she said.

Erin Sullivan

When Erin Sullivan received an email from Chancellor Kristin Sobolik about the UMSL Hero Award, she assumed it was about someone else. It wasn’t until she read closer that she realized she was one of September’s winners.

“It was nice to see that the chancellor and leadership’s words were recognizing all the work I’ve done and helped out with,” Sullivan said. “My ‘why’ is to make a difference. It was cool to see how others have seen that and nominated me. Words of affirmation are big for me, so it was cool to get that little kudos.”

Like Simonds, her colleague Sullivan found joy in working on campus as a student. In her case, it was through the SOAR program at Missouri State University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing management at the university and was initially intent on pursuing an MBA in graduate school.

However, Sullivan changed course after others commended her work with the SOAR program and she went on to earn a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education at Missouri State.

“My colleagues and students were like, ‘Hey, you’re really good at this. Have you thought to work at a university?” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh, I did not realize that was a job.’ I thought it was just fun.”

After graduating from Missouri State, Sullivan searched the Midwest for positions and landed at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. At Illinois, Sullivan served as assistant director for new student programs, leading “campus tradition-based” camps during the summers and welcoming up to 8,000 incoming domestic students each fall. She also helped build the university’s student leadership program in the new student programs office.

In 2017, Sullivan came to UMSL after getting a recommendation about the university from a graduate school colleague and to be closer to her family. Upon arriving at UMSL, she immediately connected with the close-knit community and students’ eagerness to be involved on campus.

Sullivan began as a coordinator of new student programs and has climbed the ladder to assistant director of new student programs and campus visits. Simonds said Sullivan has been her right hand for the past 6½ years.

“We really lean on each other,” Simonds said. “She really has helped in this scope of switching everything, especially when I was out on maternity leave this spring.”

While a significant portion of the job involves dealing with new students, Sullivan has enjoyed being able to see the student leaders in her office grow personally and professionally as they progress on their UMSL journeys.

“I get excited when I can see the leaders grow and have an impact on their life,” she said. “But for that new student and that new family, it’s always gratifying when you see them leave from an orientation, and they’re smiling, they’re talking and they might come up to you and say, ‘Hey, I really appreciated this.’”

Sullivan credits those interactions to the Disney philosophy of adding a little “pixie dust” to customer service and works to add some “Triton magic” at UMSL.

“If you’ve been to a Disney park and have that button that says it’s your first day, you’re going to get a little extra – here’s a sticker; here’s an ice cream cone – because every employee has a little pixie dust that they can share,” she said. “So here at UMSL I add ‘Triton magic’ and ask myself and others, how can we provide that Triton magic?”

Corey Worth 

Corey Worth attributes his focus on service to his time in the fast-food industry as a manager at McDonald’s. Since coming to UMSL in 2006 to work in Maintenance Operations as a custodian, that philosophy has been noticed by faculty, students and staff.

“I’ve always been fond of service, helping the next person out, doing anything that I can,” Worth said. “That’s always been me.”

Teaching Professor Qiang Dotzel nominated Worth, noting that he is always eager to help, whether that means finding Dotzel more chalk when she runs out or helping to keep classrooms in Clark Hall cool so students can focus on learning.

“Corey is a problem-solver,” Dotzel wrote in her nomination. “I recall even before the pandemic when I ‘flipped’ my classroom. I had students writing on seven sections of blackboard in the classroom during the review days. Teaching back-to-back, it can be challenging for me to clean all boards by myself. So, I reached out to Corey and asked if I could borrow some cleaning equipment so that I could clean them faster and move onto my next class. Instead of lending me some equipment, Corey came to my classroom right at the end of the hour with a bucket and rags, and he cleaned all boards for me! He was there to support instruction beyond his duty call.”

Worth was surprised but excited to the receive the nomination.

“After 17 years, it feels pretty good to be recognized,” he said.

During that time, he said he’s enjoyed being able to get to know faculty, students and staff and also meeting people from different cultures and all walks of life.

“That has been a great learning experience,” Worth said. “I’ve never come across so many cultures. Being here has opened my eyes to a whole lot. It’s been an awesome experience.”

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